Friday, April 3, 2009

Pattern Drafting

Ever since Cidell enrolled in a pattern drafting class, I've been longing to do the same. There aren't a lot of pattern drafting classes around - even in a city as large as Philadelphia. The only pattern drafting classes I found were requirements for degree programs at local colleges and only for matriculating students. Philadelphia University, (formerly called Philadelphia College of Textiles and Sciences - with textiles in the name, I expected more) offered a certificate program in Industrial Sewing Methods with classes on Saturday mornings, and I enrolled several years ago. My daughter was younger then, and had soccer games and Girl Scout activities on Saturdays. After I missed most of a championship soccer game (which went into overtime and sudden death), I felt guilty and withdrew from the program. My daughter is all grown up now and I'm free to enroll again if I choose - without the guilt! In addition, the program has moved to Drexel University, which is closer to me. Back when I was enrolled, the program focused on fitting and construction, and not specifically on pattern making.

So, I am embarking on a journey to teach myself pattern making. I already own two books on patternmaking. Considering the cost of two well-known books; $99 for Patternmaking Made Easy (Amaden-Crawford, 2007) and $85 for Patternmaking for Fashion Design (Armstrong, 2005) , I can make the two books I already own work for me. Actually, the two books complement each other. Make Your Own Patterns (Bergh, 2006) is short on theory, but has clear step-by-step directions and excellent diagrams. How to Make Sewing Patterns (McCunn, 1977) has more theory, but it's line drawings are confusing. Both use the same approach - draft basic patterns according to your measurements and use the basic pattern as a template for making custom designs. The McCunn book has a section on taking your own measurements that will be particularly helpful for me, but I'll be depending more on Bergh for the actual patternmaking. I checked out How to Design Your Own Dress Patterns (Margolis, 1971) from the library. Margolis included exercises in manipulating quarter-scale pattern pieces. Manipulating the quarter-scale patterns helped me understand the theory and gain confidence. Neither Bergh nor McCunn included these exercises.

I've wanted to try patternmaking for over a year, but I finally feel ready to actually try making a pattern. I can work on patternmaking between garments. I enjoy having a long term project to work on at my leisure. And I do mean long term … I have no idea when (or if) I will finish this. My goal is to draft a simple, button-up short sleeve shirt. Yes, I know there are dozens of patterns for simple, button-up short sleeve shirts, but I want the challenge and the learning experience. I'll feel very proud if the result looks like a simple button-up short sleeve shirt when I'm finished.


  1. Don McCunn gives online pattern drafting classes, using his book. I have taken a couple, and he's very patient, and helpful. He has "chats" to discuss problems and answers questions.

    Don does these classes through his Yahoo groups.

    One of his Yahoo groups is called: "How to Make Sewing Patterns". Here, people share information about pattern drafting.

    The other Yahoo group is called "Patternmaking Classes". This group is set up for people interested in taking his online classes.

    If you're interested, you can contact him at either site. He's a super guy.

    Good luck, and have fun!

  2. You're very courageous! The whole process looks overwhelming to me.

  3. Rene Bergh book is absolutely awesome...believe me if I can followbthe instructions any one can...
    Ambitious Sewer

  4. Learning pattern drafting is so cool. I own both of those books and they are good additions to a sewing library. You can also get info about pattern drafting from

  5. Don McCunn is very much theory. His expertise is primarily costuming and he doesn't really understand fashion for the average women. His approach is looking at pattern drafting as an enginnering experience/experiment but doesn't look to see what has been done already. He sometimes rattle off ideas that have been around for years like he was the one who invented the concept. He is personable enough on his site, but anyone who doesn't know that women have worn pants zippers on the left side off and on for many years really doesn't know fashion. (said he never heard of such a thing) For his age you would think he would know the basic fashion styles/patterns over the years.
    I think Rene Bergh is much better and there are many other books for fit that will compliment her.

  6. I'm going to follow your progress with great interest. I live in an area where there is no chance of sewing shops, let alone sewing classes and I've been considering doing some home pattern making training myself. If you can get hold of Australian Stitches magazine, there were a series of articles last year about drafting pants patterns from scratch. Good luck!

  7. Wow, that is great. I think you will enjoy it. Keep us all posted on how this is going. Looking forward to seeing your creations from your own pattern drafting.

  8. I think you will have fun drafting.
    I took a pattern drafting course and was actually surprised that it was not as difficult as I thought it would be. I had it in my head that it was a "very" hard and complicated
    procedure :)
    I have a few pattern drafting books,if you need more information, I'll gladly look it up. ("Patternmaking for Fashion Design" is one of the books we used in class, and it is excellent)

  9. I have both books and will be watching your progress...although I think I like the designing of a garment more than I like drafting patterns...just a little too precise for me!

  10. I was excited to stumble across your blog, as I also live in Philadelphia and am trying to teach myself patternmaking. I've been looking for a place to take classes, but haven't had much luck- just classes for matriculated fashion design students. I've been using Cal Patch's "Design it yourself clothes" to learn the basics.